How to Vacation With Your Pet

Pets at State and National Parks

So you want to enjoy the splendor and majesty of a state or national park with your pet. It's possible. It may not be easy, but it's possible. Many national and state parks have strict rules regarding animals, and for good reason. Pet owners who aren't mindful of their pets can cause discord among fellow campers.

Many parks only allow pets in parking lots, cars, and within 50 feet (15.24 meters) of the road. Most allow pets in campgrounds and developed areas. But hiking trails, backcountry trails, beaches and buildings are generally off limits [source: Dog Friendly]. These rules may seem strict, but they're necessary for a number of reasons. They're meant to protect your pet and the parks.

The purpose of state and national parks is to protect our nation's natural resources and wildlife. Domesticated pets can make this difficult because many of them are natural predators. They have a tendency to harass or even kill wild animals like squirrels and raccoons. Many of the wild animals that pets harass will react aggressively and endanger you and your animal. In parks like Yellowstone that are home to bears, coyotes and other predators, your pet could even become prey.

A recurring theme in vacationing with your pets is managing their waste. Although it's easy enough to clean up your pet's excrement with a plastic bag, there's not much you can do about its pee. This poses a problem because the scent it leaves behind may be perceived by the local wildlife as the scent of a predator. This can disrupt or alter their behavior [source: NPS].

The bottom line when you bring your pet to a state or national park is that you must always have control over them. Most of the time, leashes no longer than 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length are required and strictly enforced. Though visiting parks is fun for you, the experience may not be very fun for your animal. Policies regarding pets differ from park to park. So as always, call ahead to find out the specific restrictions for the park you plan on visiting.